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Bakery will no longer sell wedding cakes after adverse discrimination ruling

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Gay Marriage,Freedom of Religion,Gay rights,Gender Issues,Blake Seitz

Wedding cakes are no longer on the menu at Lakewood, Colo.-based Masterpiece Cake Shop.

Owner Jack Phillips will stop offering wedding cake services in the wake of a ruling that his shop must sell cakes for same-sex wedding ceremonies, despite his religious objections.

The ordeal began in 2012 when Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig solicited a cake for their wedding from Phillips' shop. They were turned down by Phillips, who has been a Christian for 35 years and whose religious convictions do not permit him to endorse same-sex weddings. At the time, Phillips told the men “I'll make you birthday cakes, shower cakes, sell you cookies and brownies, I just don't make cake for same-sex weddings."

The couple responded with an obscene hand gesture (courtesy of Mullins) and an airing of grievances over Facebook. "It was the most awkward, surreal, very brief encounter," Mullins said. "We got up to leave, and to be totally honest, I said, 'F*** you and your homophobic cake shop.' And I may or may not have flipped him off."

They then took their case to the Colorado civil rights commission, claiming unlawful discrimination.

The commission — composed of three Democrats, three unaffiliated members and one Republican — agreed by affirming the decision of administrative law judge Robert N. Spencer, who ruled against Masterpiece Cakes.

In defending the decision, Commission Chair Katrina Banks, a Democrat, said "You can have your beliefs, but you can't hurt other people at the same time." Whether or not psychic distress is "hurt" sufficient to override conscience rights is debatable, but in this case the law breaks against Phillips.

The commission cites the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by "public accommodations." Public accommodations are defined broadly as "any place of business engaged in offering sales or services of any kind to the public."

A number of states have considered bills to provide owners of private organizations with a conscience exemption. The highest-profile of these bills — alternately labeled anti-gay and pro-liberty by its detractors and supporters — was vetoed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer in February.

Phillips can appeal the commission's decision, but it seems likely his shop is out of the wedding cake business for good. As part of its punishment, the shop must submit quarterly reports to the government documenting every customer denied business, for whatever reason.

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Blake Seitz

Special to the Examiner
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